Catering to commercial cattleman, Par Terre selects genetics appealing to commercial producers
Bushnell, Neb. – When Klent Schnell graduated from college and came back to the family ranching and farming operation in 2002, it was to work in partnership with his dad Dave.
Their goal was simple. They wanted to build a herd of cattle that would really appeal to the commercial cattlemen.
“Dad and I always believed we had the genetics that could offer an outcross that would help improve many commercial cattlemen’s herds. Crossbred cattle have been proven to outperform and increase longevity in a mother cow, compared to a straight-bred cow,” Klent Schnell explains.
Par Terre Cattle
The cattle operation near Bushnell, Neb. is known as Par Terre Cattle Company. It is a family operation consisting of Dave and Bev Schnell, and their son Klent, his wife Sara and their children Kaitlynn, Kale and Kennedi Schnell.
Dave and Klent manage the cowherd and the farming operation. Their wives help with the annual bull sale and the children’s 4-H projects.
“My kids are very involved in the county 4-H program, which I believe is a great way to raise children and teach them responsibility and work ethic,” Schnell says.
The first bulls from their program were sold in 2003, and they have held an annual production sale ever since.
“Our first bulls were Maine Anjou-Angus cross, with a lot of the genetics coming from the first Maine Anjou bull we purchased in Denver, Colo. in 1998,” he says. “Prior to that, we were using Charolais bulls on our cowherd but decided to use Maine Anjou to produce a black crossbred calf.”
When the Maine Anjou breed started moving more toward show cattle, the Schnells decided to do something different.
“We brought Simmental genetics into our herd about eight years ago because we believe the SimAngus female is the ideal female for the industry. Simmental cattle are easy fleshing, great milking and perform great in the feedlot, as well as on the rail,” Schnell explains. “Par Terre genetics were five of the top 10 carcass animals at the Kimball-Banner County Fair last summer.”
Over the years, the family has built the herd up to more than 400 mother cows that calve in January and February.
“We are unique calving in January and February, but we have found it works well for us,” he says. “That time of year is cold but not wet and cold. It allows us to have calving completed by the time the spring field work begins, while also allowing us to offer bull calves to our customers that are almost a year-and-a-half old at breeding,” he adds.
The registered SimAngus herd is managed like their commercial herd. None of the cows receive special treatment. Every female is artificially inseminated (AI’ed) and then turned out with cleanup bulls for 60 days.
“We also do some embryo transplant work and flush a few donor cows. We transplant about 10 to 15 embryos each year,” he says.
The herd sires are selected based on expected progeny differences (EPDs) and phenotype.
“A bull or female can have great numbers, but if they are not structurally sound and don’t milk, they are not worth having in our herd,” he explains. “Our first-calf heifers are bred to a curve-bending Angus bull, and the cows are mated based on breed percentage and what has worked before.”
The cows must get bred and wean a big calf every year, or they are culled from the herd.
The calves are weaned in August and placed in a grow lot where they will gain 3.5 to four pounds a day.
The Schnells select the top 40 to 45 bull calves each fall, then pick the best 25 for their sale. The bull calves are fed a high roughage diet to maximize their growth potential, without getting them too fat.
The middle cut of the heifers are saved as replacements. The rest of the calves are backgrounded and marketed in November or December each year.
This year’s production sale will be held Feb. 24 at the family ranch, with the annual sale held the fourth Saturday in February.
“One hundred percent of our bulls are sold to commercial operations,” Schnell explains. “Our buyers can spend about one-third less on a bull that is just as good as one in a purebred sale.”
“Our bulls’ longevity is one of our top selling points. They don’t fall apart the first breeding season and will keep breeding cows for six to seven years,” he adds.
Schnell also artificially inseminates 800 to 1,000 head of cows each year for neighbors and other ranches.
“It is something I really enjoy, and it helps bring in new customers and friends,” he says.
Ups and downs
Schnell has found agriculture to be a challenging way to make a living but, at the same time, rewarding and a great way to raise a family.
One of the biggest challenges in their operation is maintaining their standard of living while paying the high property taxes in Nebraska.
“Our legislature needs to figure out a way to not rely so much on agriculture to support the state,” Schnell says. “It makes it very hard to expand our operation when the property tax is so burdensome,” he adds.
He also finds consumer awareness becoming more critical for livestock producers.
“We must raise a safe and wholesome product that the end consumer wants and is willing to pay for,” he says.
Through it all, Schnell says his family is “thankful to be involved in the greatest and most rewarding industry in this country.”
“Our hope is to continue to be able to provide practical, functional cattle to our customers and friends,” he says.
For more information about Par Terre Cattle Company, Klent can be reached at 308-235-9251 or at email@example.com.
Gayle Smith is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.